The paradoxical food buying behaviour of parents: Insights from the UK and Australia


Noble G, Stead M, Jones S, McDermott L & McVie D (2007) The paradoxical food buying behaviour of parents: Insights from the UK and Australia. British Food Journal, 109 (5), pp. 387-398.

Purpose – This article aims to explore the apparent paradox between the nutritional knowledge of parents of pre-school children and their actual food purchase and preparation behaviour. Design/methodology/approach – Two separate qualitative data collection exercises were conducted, an exploratory focus group study in the UK and a projective technique study in Australia. Findings – The UK study found that, despite believing that vegetables were good for children’s health, mothers also perceived that it was extremely difficult to encourage children to eat them. The results of Australian study suggest that the purchase of unhealthy “treats” or “bribes” is explained through the concept of “expediency” whereas what this study labels as “good parenting” emerged as the main motivational force leading to the purchase of healthy food. Research limitations/implications – The authors caution on any inappropriate generalisations being based on the findings of this study. Further qualitative and quantitative empirical research is suggested in settings different to those of this study. Practical implications – The authors suggest that information- and education-based campaigns,which simply emphasise the benefits of “healthy” food and the disbenefits of “unhealthy” food for children will have limited impact on childhood obesity. Instead, future interventions need to acknowledge the complex reality of parenting and the barriers and competition to healthy food choices, and to offer parents meaningful help in food purchasing and preparation. An approach suggested by the authors that acknowledges this complexity is that of social marketing. Originality/value – This paper provides new insights into the food purchase and preparation behaviour of parents and suggests alternative strategies for addressing the current childhood obesity epidemic.

consumer behaviour; parents; children; obesity; UK; Australia; Consumer behavior; Food Marketing Case studies; Obesity Psychological aspects

British Food Journal: Volume 109, Issue 5

Publication date31/12/2007
Publication date online22/05/2007
PublisherEmerald Group Publishing Limited